Photo credit: Shewanda Riley

By Shewanda Riley

Before I knew it, the words tumbled out of my mouth with such ferocity that I was surprised.  I could also tell by the stunned looks on the faces of my students that they were also surprised by my swift response. And the student who’d asked the question sat looking like he’d just been stomped on by a WWE superstar.

I didn’t curse or yell at the student but gave him such a no-nonsense response to what was designed to start a verbal fight between us that he sat silent for a few minutes. He even repeated the question when it appeared that he didn’t get the fight he wanted.  I’m not sure if he was trying to get me to yell at him or see me lose my cool in front of class.     I was trying to think of the words of Proverbs 15:1 “A gentle response defuses anger, but a sharp tongue kindles a temper-fire,” but the words came to my mind after the class was over.

After it happened, I honestly felt bad.  I could see the other students tense up because they weren’t sure what was going to happen next. I tried to joke about them looking startled and did my best to steer the class discussion back to the lesson topic.

Funny thing is I had another student in another class do the exact same thing one day earlier and I just ignored her comments. I’m also not trying to be deep and spiritual about two similar experiences, but was God trying to tell me something?  Of course, he was God always speaks to us through our experiences, no matter how seemingly insignificant, if we choose to listen and pay attention.

Last week, I wrote “you have to do your part;” the more I thought about it, these incidents show that I needed to take some of my own advice. As much as I fussed about my students not doing their part to succeed in class, I was guilty of doing the least amount when it came to certain areas of my life.I know what God’s word says, I just have to do a much better job of applying it.

I knew deep down that I could have handled the situation better. Like most people, I know when I’m about to cross that line.   In this situation, doing my part meant that I listen more than I speak. Doing my part also meant that when I did speak, I should offer affirming and encouraging words, not harsh words. I needed to put into the action the truth of Proverb 15:1: “A soft and gentle and thoughtful answer turns away wrath, But harsh and painful and careless words stir up anger.”

In addition, I needed to be more intentional about giving a much more compassionate response.  Pray for me because I’m definitely working on that one!  We also have to do our part in the areas where we find it most difficult because it’s in those areas that we grow the most.

Shewanda Riley (Aunt Wanda), PhD, is a Fort Worth-based author of “Love Hangover: Moving from Pain to Purpose After a Relationship Ends” and “Writing to the Beat of God’s Heart: A Book of Prayers for Writers.” Email her at or follow her on Twitter @shewanda. You can also listen to her podcast at